Porter Regional opens Breast Milk Depot

August 23, 2018

VALPARAISO — A new milk depot at Porter Regional Hospital is offering babies access to the highly-nutritional benefits of human breast milk, while providing an opportunity for local mothers to donate excess breast milk for infants in need.

The new milk depot – a partnership with the Milk Bank – offers a place for women who have been approved to donate extra or unneeded breast milk. All milk is sent to the Milk Bank in Indiana for processing and pasteurization, and is eventually made available to babies via physician order at local hospitals.

Human milk provides optimal nutrition and unique health benefits that last beyond infancy, according to doctors. It is also the standard food for all infants, including premature or sick infants, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. When mothers deliver babies prematurely, they are not able to produce milk at the time of baby’s birth, so donated breast milk enables them to give their babies a healthy start.

Chrissy Duncan of Westville was the first human milk donor at Porter’s milk depot, which opened last week. She and her husband Don, and baby Margo, attended the ceremony.

“I choose to do this because I have an oversupply. I still have over 1,000 ounces in my freezer – even after my donation today,” Duncan said. “We lost a baby when I was 24 weeks, which inspired me to be able to provide for other babies that might need that milk to get healthy, because breast milk is the best milk.”

Julie White, clinical coordinator for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Porter Regional Hospital, was integral in opening the milk depot, and coordinated the opening ceremony to commemorate the event.

“Since our NICU started using donor milk in November 2017, we have had many babies’ nutritional needs met with the use of donor milk,” White said. “We have also seen a reduction in cases of necrotizing enterocolitis – a condition that many premature babies will suffer from at birth. We know the benefit of human breast milk for our babies, so we are grateful for administrative support to be able to become a collection site for donated milk.”

Also attending the event on behalf of the hospital were Elaine Johnson-Merkel, director of the Women’s and Children’s Pavilion; Sean Dardeau, Market CEO for Porter Health Care System, and several nurses and certified lactations consultants who support babies and mothers at Porter Regional Hospital.

“As we take care of babies, we know parents are looking to us to provide trusted guidance and healthy options so our tiniest citizens grow to become strong and healthy,” said Elaine Johnson-Merkel, director of the Women’s and Children’s Pavilion at Porter. “Research and evidence strongly support the use of HBM (Human Breast Milk) as the best feeding option when mom’s milk is not in, or supply is not equal to demand.”

Janice O’Rourke, executive director of the milk bank, said in a statement, “The Milk Bank hopes to continue forging partnerships with organizations throughout the Midwest to make the process of human milk donation easier for donor moms and families, while also helping to support breastfeeding in local communities.”

The process takes four steps:

• Call the milk bank at (317) 536-1670 to complete a phone screen.

• Fill out a donor application and medical history form.

• Have your healthcare provider and your baby’s healthcare provider sign consent forms.

• Complete a blood test at the Milk Bank’s expense.

Lauren Duncan, donor mother coordinator for the Milk Bank, said she is available to coordinate the process for moms and support them throughout the time they are donating. Mother can donate milk up to two years after the birth of a child. The milk depot will accept approved milk drop-offs by appointment.

Call White at (219) 983-8698 or Johnson-Merkel at (219) 983-8541 for more information.

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